(Perhaps mild spoilers)
The Voices, directed by Marjane Satrapi, presents itself from the very beginning as a zany film with a questionable over the top opening sequence and carries on with an incredibly pitch black sense of humour. Initially, a film revolving around a man and his pets sounds harmless enough – however, surprisingly, this has a very interesting and unique take on mental illness and the troubling events that can happen if a sickness goes untreated.
Ryan Reynolds stars as Jerry, a pleasant and mild-mannered factory worker living in America. Living in an apartment above an abandoned bowling alley with his cat Mr Whiskers and his dog Bosco, the audience is shown pretty quickly that Jerry seemingly appears normal enough on the surface, however when he finds himself alone at home, things get a little strange. You see, Jerry talks to his pets – which is something many of us can relate to – although I’m willing to bet that your pets never speak back. Jerry’s pets do, and they often encourage him to give in to his darker instincts and do bad things to people. Think of it as a good conscience vs bad conscience – or in this case good dog vs evil cat. Jerry is conflicted as he doesn’t want to do anything bad, yet it seems these things will tend to happen around him no matter what he does and how good of a person he tries to be.
If this wasn’t already triggering alarm sounds, the viewer is shown quite early on that Jerry sees a psychiatrist and how he dances around her questions by not being able to give honest answers – especially when she asks if he hears “voices”. Also the struggles of whether or not he should take his medication for his illness shows the dire consequences of what could happen when someone that recognises they’re unlike other people chooses to keep their problems a secret, or run away from them. Jerry often confides in his pets about his constant struggles and it’s clear he is frightened of being overwhelmingly alone if he takes his medication. Ultimately it’s the fear of losing the voices and comforting fantasy that makes him resist taking them.
Reynolds has obviously starred in many films over the course of his career, but his performance of Jerry seems to be a very strange, but unique challenge. It seems that no matter how far gone inside his own mind Jerry has vanished, the audience is still able to feel sympathetic and caring, regardless of what wrongs he may be doing. Not only does Reynolds play as Jerry, but he also portrays the voices of several other characters, all of whom he must interact with during various parts of the film. Along for the ride, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick star as Jerry’s brief love interests during the film and although Kendrick is the more memorable and humble character, Arterton delivers more laughs. Jackie Weaver also stars as Jerry’s psychiatrist, however it’s unfortunate that her character is underused and wasted until well into the final act of the film.
The Voices switches from incredibly dark scenes of dealing with untreated schizophrenia to amusing moments featuring a foul mouthed Scottish talking cat in a matter of seconds and admittedly it is quite difficult to keep up with at times. Although the film starts off with a more wacky and comical start, it’s around the halfway point where the story begins to change and the audience is able to see the vast contrast between Jerry’s perspective on his life and the way everyone else can see the world. There’s one sequence that springs to mind immediately that shows just how delusional Jerry has become over time and it’s a truly shocking scene that actually alters the entire tone of the film. There’s also some traumatic childhood memories that perhaps drag on longer than was necessary, as it comes across as a rather forced way to try and explain Jerry’s actions further.
Despite the struggle to balance an even and consistent tone, The Voices still remains to be quite the mind trip. In a horror film aspect the violence and gore is kept at a minimal or off screen and the truly scary parts of this are more focused on delving inside the mind of a deranged individual. Reynolds did a tremendous job with the various roles and being able to juggle such a deeply disturbed yet sympathetic character shows real talent. I say this a lot, but this film definitely (and this time I mean definitely) will not be for everyone – but if you’re willing to open your mind to something a bit different, maybe it’ll be worth the worth. Also, again – it features a tabby cat with a Scottish accent and a vulgar mouth.